Bringing families together for life’s big events
Spring and summer are our favorite times for celebrating family events. The season for graduations, weddings and family reunions is on its way, marked by everyone getting together with lots of pictures to document special gatherings. But sometimes, “everyone” is hard to accomplish. Lots of our families include seniors living far away. Orchestrating their safe travel to attend these events can feel daunting, even impossible. Senior Travel Companion Services specializes in helping families get their older relatives to the party. Eden Prairie resident Carol Giuliani created this unique business to remove barriers and bring families together.
Carol first discovered her affinity for the elderly when she was only 15 years old. She worked in a nursing home and found herself drawn to the Holocaust survivors and their stories. Carol’s life experiences and big heart create the perfect collection of skills and patience needed to coordinate custom travel and accompany seniors. A travel enthusiast with vast globetrotting expertise, she has served as a caregiver to seniors for 34 years and has logged over 23 years as a guardian and conservator. Decades later, Carol continues to serve seniors in these roles and enjoys their company while she helps them travel to visit or live near loved ones. People who know Carol describe her as adventurous, resourceful and unflappable. Combine those traits with her appreciation for golden-agers, the “gift of gab” and her zest for travel and you have a person ideally suited for her one-of-a-kind business.
Carol is a savvy traveler and a resourceful trouble shooter. She has flown from Minnesota to the East Coast with an elderly gentleman so he could attend his granddaughter’s graduation. She coordinated a trip to San Francisco and accompanied a woman moving to a memory care home close to her family. She has packed clients’ bags, booked flights, driven cross country, rented scooters, played Scrabble and even cooked dinner (she’s also a gourmet cook!) for her companions.
The mission for Senior Travel Companion Services is, “to help seniors maintain dignity and independence while removing physical and emotional obstacles to travel.” Carol says she loves a challenge and that many phone calls from potential clients start out with, “I don’t know if there’s any way you can help get my mom to travel to…” First, she says it’s important to know that what might seem overwhelming to family members, is fun for her. “Seniors have so much history. Listening to them tell their stories and learning about their lives is my favorite part of my work.” Carol has numerous experiences where she’s created a travel atmosphere that turned reluctant travelers into her friends. She also points out that an unrelated, neutral companion may be more patient than family members when the challenges that inevitably crop up while accompanying a senior long-distance occur. The confidence that stems from her years of care giving experience helps, too.
Carol’s travel companion business provides a unique combination of services that aren’t offered by anyone else in the area. Home care aides might provide health services but lack travel expertise. Travel sites may specialize in senior tours, but don’t offer the personal care many seniors require. The patience, humor and resourceful personality are uniquely Carol’s. Her process is both detail-oriented and user-friendly. The attention to detail comes naturally because she’s an attorney; she’s also bonded and insured. Every element of a client’s trip is customized to suit individual needs. She meets with seniors and their families to learn about their travel goals and expectations. She provides a questionnaire to document health issues, medications, physical capabilities and personal backgrounds. She can be as involved with travel budgets, itineraries and entertainment as her clients want. She follows up every trip with a full accounting and a trip report, accompanied by suggestions for future travel.
“Travel can be empowering. Both for seniors and their families.” Carol has taken on this goal with gusto and continues to educate herself and the seniors she serves. Taking continuing education classes on senior needs such as “Tandem Strength and Balance” helps her keep her travel companions safe. She also pays it forward. Carol offers free seminars, “Travel Tips for Seniors and Everyone” across the metro area in assisted living homes, churches, and community centers.
It doesn’t take long to learn that this isn’t just a business for Carol. She has taken a career path to create the perfect opportunity for integrating her love of travel and admiration for seniors. “Everyone deserves to take part and have fun in life. Whether I am listening to a client sing at a relative’s funeral or serving cake at a graduation party, I think I am lucky to have been a part of that life experience. I’ve learned a lot about life and successful families from being a small part of these seniors’ travel and their families’ events.”
Carol is grateful for seeing senior care evolve from restraints in nursing homes of the past to concierge services in assisted living homes today. Her role as a guardian and conservator offers a lot of insight into industry trends and her latest observation is that, “baby boomers want to live life to the fullest and travel is part of that.” If there’s a big family event on your horizon, consider including a far away relative. Your high school graduate will feel even more important when her grandma comes all the way from New York. Grandparents from Florida sitting in a place of honor at your son’s wedding reception reminds everyone of the vows they made sixty years ago. A favorite aunt’s toast at the family picnic might include a story no one has ever heard before. If they’re independent and able, Carol says she will make herself scarce. If they need assistance with personal care, she’ll happily join the party and help them so you can tend to your guests.
A visit to her website offers a peek into some of Carol’s travel companions’ stories. The testimonials reveal that she has both embedded herself in family events and kept to the sidelines, based on her clients’ needs and wishes. She also helps families relocate loved ones when they want them living nearby in assisted living and memory care homes. Adventure travel for seniors is featured on her website, too. Visit SeniorTravelCompanionServices.com to learn more.